Working From Home…When We’re Back in the Office

HOW THE SECTOR ENABLING REMOTE WORK STANDS TODAY AND MIGHT LOOK POST-CORONA

Introduction

This is the first of a series of content we plan on publishing into certain sectors that are seeing changes due to the current crisis. We will at times focus on the state of the vertical today, but mostly on the state of the vertical in a “new normal” and what opportunities we see emerging accordingly.

Industry Perspective — An Informal Survey

To begin, we spoke with industry managers to share their experiences of working from home for the first time and how they see remote work evolving post-Corona. We chose three people working in different functions in big global companies.

  • Only new tech adopted to-date has been Zoom, no new external communication or project management tools
  • Thinks this quarantine will lead to more remote-working post-Corona and noted how he’s “actually seen some members of his global team for the first time in the last few weeks via Zoom”
  • Sees the biggest gap of remote work in mentorship & training, especially for more recent hires, who often times require hand-holding in code-review and general mentorship
  • Hopes to continue working from home once or twice a week moving forward
  • No new tech has been adopted, as a tech company with internal communication tools already in place, his transition to remote work was fairly seamless
  • His biggest challenge of working remotely is the inability to sell face-to-face, but he’s curious to see if his sales team will feel “as obligated to always be traveling post-Corona”
  • Sees the biggest gap of remote work as his inability to lead internal initiatives or add value to internal projects including mentorship, club support etc.
  • Hopes to continue working from home only when he needs to, but would still prefer to go into the office as he believes internal relationship building is crucial
  • Only new tech adopted to-date has been Zoom, no new external communication or project management tools
  • Thinks the biggest issue of working remotely in his role is Compliance, but thankfully, most of the current playbook they are using was put into place following 9/11
  • Believes the biggest gap of remote work is in the social aspects of the office — being privy to information in real-time, the constant engagement and banter etc.
  • He would love a tool that where they can collaborate in a space together that generates a similar energy as the office
  • Hopes to continue working from home only when he needs to, but would still prefer to go into the office as he believes the energy and social aspects of the firm is crucial for career development. “That intangible would be lost.”

Culture & Mentorship — A Hurdle of Remote Working

A key learning we derived from the above conversations is that due to years of innovation and internal tools being built, many folks’ day-to-day activities are able to be accomplished remotely. However, there is a cultural and often intangible aspect of the office that is very much missing. This finding is consistent with Mary Meeker’s latest report which cites at the margin, productivity is the same if not higher, but “maintaining engagement, culture, training” etc. is a lingering “top of mind issue with large scale remote work.”

Thankfully, there are some startups already attempting to address this problem…

On one side of the spectrum is Spacial, a VR/AR teleportation company. While a very cool concept, and could be laying the foundation for a “Minority Report’’-like long-term solution, we do not believe this is an investable solution for the next 3+ years. First, we view the price point as a major hurdle for mass adoption, and we don’t see that changing meaningfully in the near-term. Second, it is difficult to foresee this sort of potentially friction-filled experience generating the fluid office-like energy, culture and environment that we are seeking to solve.

Three Quick Predictions

  1. Training/Mentorship Solutions Will Differ by Role: Solutions will be developed to help guide the A-Z process of employee onboarding, training and long-term mentorship of the distributed workforce. We believe these solutions will not be one size fits all. Instead, we believe that sales and business development roles will have a solution which will look & feel very different from the onboarding, training and hand-holding required for a technical engineering role with activities like code review. We would love to chat with any founders building A-Z remote employee solutions — especially with a niche focus.
  2. Multi-Modal Video Collaboration Will Shine: In a platform like Zoom, we have found two key limitations 1) video collaboration happens only in real-time 2) the meetings themselves are scheduled and structured by nature. As such, we believe a company like Loom has positioned itself well in the asynchronous workflow of video collaboration but that there is also room for improvement in making synchronous video tools more fluid and flexible. However, whether new solutions will be successful in addressing these limitations directly or an existing platform like Zoom merely integrates these as new features is yet to be seen.
  3. Israel Will Emerge as a Solution Leader: We believe the Israeli ecosystem is well prepared to build meaningful solutions to address these gaps. In a culture that has had to maintain office culture, career development and constant collaboration through multiple offices and geographies for over 20 years, the core understanding of the challenges is inherent in the Israeli founder DNA. We have already seen Israeli companies like Empirical, Eloops and Hibob try and address aspects of remote hiring, training or culture, but we would love to see more.

In Summary

We believe this pandemic will likely serve as an inflection point for a further distributed and remote workforce. This belief was only validated through our portfolio and industry research which demonstrated high levels of productivity despite the global circumstances. However, we also believe that a more distributed workforce will only be sustainable in the long-term if progress is achieved in making remote work a little less like working on an island, and a little more collaborative, mentorship-friendly and career-development driven. This is a current gap whose solutions will be not only pertinent in times of Corona-induced quarantine life, but as we continue forward into an evolving job landscape post-Corona. Considering the nascency of the companies addressing this gap today, we believe this is a subcategory that has yet to truly take shape and will now become a focus of our investment team.

Investor @ Hanaco Ventures, an Israel and NY based venture capital firm. David@hanacovc.com

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